Tennis legend Leander Paes on Saturday said he is concerned about the already postponed Tokyo Olympics next year, saying with global economy taking a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is worried about how the revenue would be generated for the sporting spectacle, especially if it is held behind closed doors.
Paes, who turned 47 on Wednesday, had announced that 2020 would be his last season as a professional player but his plan to bid adieu on a high with a record eight appearance at the Olympics, was stalled by the pandemic, which has wrecked the sporting calendar.
“I am really concerned about the Olympics because that is relevant to my history, my legacy. I was on one last tour season culminating with the Tokyo Olympics,” Paes, the winner of 18 majors, said during a webinar session organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce on Zoom platform.
“But now that it”s pushed back to 2021 August with the global economy also going down…how will all the corporate sponsors for the Olympics still stand their ground to support the Olympics. How will Japanese sporting governance still be able to conduct the Olympics especially if it”s behind closed doors. Where is the revenue coming from?” Paes questioned.
“If you look at liabilities, can you imagine two people Cristiano Ronaldo catching COVID-19. Lionel Messi, God forbid, having to go to a hospital and fighting for his life with COVID-19. Real issues could happen if they are already in contact,” said Paes.
“Can you imagine a professional athlete catching COVID-19 before the vaccine comes out? How far it will set that sport back. But I know we are going to win this battle and sport will win this battle,” he added.
Asked how sport in general would be in the ”new normal” amid the health crisis, the evergreen Paes — who won the do-or-die doubles tie with Rohan Bopanna in India”s Davis Cup Qualifiers against Croatia in Zagreb earlier this year — said: “Sport as we know is not going to be the same post COVID.
“I think that empty stadiums is something that every sports governing body has agreed upon. Using digital space and television space to actually get the sporting events to the masses is going to be a lot more relevant. I think social distancing is going to determine before the vaccine comes out…which sport comes out first, second and third and likewise…and which sport cannot happen.
“In my humble opinion, sports like kabaddi cannot happen. Wrestling might take a little time to come on. But a sport like golf, tennis, running, swimming, cycling…that have innate social distancing in it already will be modified to start up.
“Tennis has already started with exhibitions within the cities. In the United States, which is where the next Grand Slam is being played, the US Open in New York…is the largest 24-hour hike of COVID-19. How will you have international athletes coming to New York and playing? Also I am proud how the United State Tennis Association has used the grounds of the US Open as a COVID-19 relief shelter.”